Alex Lin has a Midas touch.
He can dip his fingers into ordinary paint and create delicate petals and cuddly pandas. The Shanghai-born artist is an expert in finger-painting, a technique he has practiced for 20 years.
Lin become a finger-painter not by design, but, rather, through adversity. During China's cultural revolution in the 1960s, the government seized Lin's art supplies. But although painting was outlawed, on the advice of his teacher Wuwu Van, Lin learned to substitute soy sauce for his paints and his fingers for his paintbrushes.
"The artist can never give the painting up," said the 52-year-old Lin, who came to the United States three years ago and lives in Los Angeles.
Three of Lin's works (a finger-painting and two brush paintings), along with the works of 32 other artists, will be on display in the Local Artists Christmas Show opening tonight at the McGroarty Arts Center in Tujunga. A reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. will launch the free exhibition that continues through Dec. 30.
Tonight's event, which is open to the public, will feature appearances by the artists and the jazz combo "Saturday Night Bath." Some of the artwork will be for sale.
The eclectic show will feature 84 pieces of art, including oil paintings, etchings, Chinese brush paintings, string paintings and stained glass. Artists from several communities--central Los Angeles, Glendale, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys and Sun Valley among them--will be represented, including Gloria Martin, William Kitt and Judith Gale Wagner.
Martin, a ceramic sculpture designer and painter who lives in Silverlake, will have two ceramic panels and Raku ceramic birds on exhibit. The former New Yorker, who came to California in 1952, took up ceramics about 20 years ago and has been working in the medium ever since. This fall, she had nearly 40 pieces on display at the Warner Art Center in Woodland Hills as part of a two-woman show. Among the featured works were what Martin describes as "ceramic floor installations of lunar surfaces."
"They're abstract panels--white eruptive surfaces," Martin said, describing the designs that are fast becoming associated with her name.
Kitt, who is based in Van Nuys, will have two watercolors and a mixed-media painting in the Christmas show. The 35-year-old Sacramento native describes his work as "surrealism with some realism."
Incorporating such images as an iron, playing cards and a ball into his paintings, Kitt said his use of real objects out of context gives them a "certain ambiguity. I try to express the interaction between people, allowing objects to become metaphorical."
Wagner's stained glass pieces will also be on display. Commissioned to do everything from abstract panels to a giant stained glass pizza, she incorporates sliced agate, crystals, cut marbles, shells and wire overlay into her creations. "I don't think churches should have a monopoly on stained glass," the 44-year-old Lake View Terrace resident said. "Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy its beauty."
The McGroarty Home, built in 1923, was originally the residence of John Steven McGroarty, a poet, historian, dramatist, journalist and congressman. Upon his death, it was bequeathed to his niece, who later sold it to Los Angeles in 1953. Today, the building houses the John Steven McGroarty Memorial Archive-Library and is part of the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles.
Covered by Foliage
Nestled amid dense foliage on the north side of the Verdugo Hills, the McGroarty Home, which is a historical state monument, seems like the ideal location for the cultivation of art. With its quiet serenity and 16 acres of picturesque landscaping, it's difficult to remember that the hustle and bustle of Foothill Boulevard is less than half a mile away.
Instructional programs in the fine arts are offered throughout the year at nominal fees, including a variety of classes in drawing, painting, ceramics, etching and engraving, piano, dance and tai chi ch'uan, among others. Lin, Kitt and Martin are faculty members there.
For those unable to afford registration fees, some scholarships are available through the Friends of McGroarty, a nonprofit organization.
"We all have creativity," said Earl Sherburn, director of the center. "It's part of our human makeup. Here, we are offering cultural activities that allow active participation, rather than passivity--things people may have never thought of before."
The McGroarty Arts Center is at 7570 McGroarty Terrace in Tujunga. Information: (818) 352-5285. The Christmas Show runs daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but will close at noon Dec. 24 through 27.